Scottsdale1. Scottsdale, AZ

Located right outside of Phoenix, this happenin’ burb gives vacationers the best of both worlds: romping city nightlife and cozy getaways for poolside fun in the sun – even in the fall.

Close to Scottsdale, you’ll find day trips to Camelback Mountain and Squaw Peak. Arizona State University is a short drive away in Tempe, with everything a major college campus has to offer—sports, nightlife, and awesome architecture. The botanical gardens house has interesting Southwest plant life that you won’t find anywhere else – and if you’re lucky, you might find some birds and critters roaming around, too. And don’t forget about all the Old West ghost towns!

Our recommendation: Check out Westbrook Vacation Rentals for family-style stays with all the amenities – including that must-have pool!

Dallas Tx2. Dallas, TX

There’s something about Dallas that just shouts, “We’re friendly!” from the moment you get off the plane. Perhaps that’s because, just like all of Texas, everything is big and done to the max. No wonder their new slogan is “Live Large. Think Big.”

When Texans do something, they go all out – it’s part of the state’s charm. For example, the pumpkin village at the Arboretum includes four houses made entirely out of pumpkins. If that’s not dedication, we don’t know what is. For shopping, Uptown can’t be beat for anything from books to kitchen accessories, to, but the area is most known for its fashionable shopping opportunities. Traveling with family? Let the fashionistas hit the high-end stores, while the sports fans take a tour of the new Cowboys Stadium. Dallas really does have something to offer everyone!

Our recommendation: If you’re in the mood to check out exotic animals, skip the Dallas zoo and head over to the one in Ft. Worth instead.

 

Santa Fe3. Sante Fe, NM

Santa Fe has long been known for its bustling art scene, and as soon as you start walking the city streets you see why. You can find everything from the avant-garde to traditional Mexican and Native American artwork in one of the many galleries scattered across the city.

While we’re on the subject of art, no artist has had such a lasting impact on the city as Georgia O’Keefe, whose museum downtown hosts the grandest collection of her work. A dedication to art and craftsmanship is evident everywhere you look in Santa Fe, which is largely a result of the ordinances that have preserved its Spanish Pueblo Revival look. No matter where you are in Santa Fe, you’ll be surrounded by warm terracotta and turquoise colors and patterns – the classic motif that screams Southwest. If you’re feeling restless, head out to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which boasts a plethora of hiking and skiing/snowboarding trails.

Our recommendation: The New Mexico History Museum was recently voted top Western Museum in the country. No trip to Santa Fe would be complete without a stop here.

 

Salt Lake Temple 4. Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City’s landscape is as unique as its history, which makes the town an important (and appealing!) destination. Named for its giant body of inland salt water, spa goers will appreciate the afterglow of a salt scrub made from the lake itself. Depending on how early the snow comes, Park City, where the Winter Olympics were recently held, has everything a Snow Bunny could dream of. Park City boasts outdoor ice skating, crazy ski runs and some of the best snowboarding in the country. Even if snow isn’t your thing, there are 21 different national parks and monuments within a short drive – proving you don’t have to play in the snow to have a good time in Utah.

Our recommendation: Even though you might not be Mormon, be sure to spend some time on a tour of the Salt Lake City Church of Latter Day Saints Temple. The sheer beauty of its grounds and architecture is nothing short of awe inspiring – and the photos you’ll bring home will

Las Vegas5. Las Vegas, Nevada

No list of cities to visit in the Southwest ever seems to be complete without mention of Sin City. Despite re-branding itself as a playground for adults (with their “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” campaign), this place has it all…and then some. There are top-notch shows for every age and interest, and the food rivals what you can find in New York City.

Even if you’re staying on the strip, it’s worth your time to spend an evening in Fremont Street — the “old town” of the Strip. Yes, it is slightly seedier, but both betting tables and drinks are cheaper (not to mention the room rates!). Spas off of the Strip are also usually cheaper than their on-Strip counterparts, and hotel spas offer deals and discounts on a regular basis. Any kind of food imaginable is available on the Strip, but carnivores will especially want to check out steak restaurants like Craftsteak and Delmonico’s.

Our recommendation: Right on the strip is some of the most fabulous to shopping to be found in the U.S. If you have your Black AMEX card, be sure to swing by Caesar’s and the Venetian. On a budget? Head out to the Outlet Center and save your pennies for food and fun!